David Halberstam was killed in a car crash today at the age of 73, when another vehicle slammed into the car in which he was a passenger. Halberstam attended Harvard, where he picked up an obsession with the Red Sox and started writing for the Harvard Crimson. After working at dailies in Mississippi and Tennessee and covering the civil rights movment, he moved back north to the New York Times. While at the Times, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the Vietnam war (he later wrote the most famous book on that war, The Best and the Brightest). He has a slew of books, but here in Beantown, we knew him fondly as a bit of a seamhead. He wrote the pennant-race chronicle The Summer of ’49, which follows titans of the game Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio as the Red Sox and the Yankees grind their way towards a one-game showdown at season’s end, and The Teammates: A Portrait of Friendship, which follows Johnny Pesky and Dom DiMaggio on the 1,300 mile drive from Massachusetts to Florida to see a declining Williams for the last time. Bobby Doerr, who stayed home to care for his ailing wife yet also worked with Halberstam on that project, talked to Reuters today:
“He was a very likable, compassionate type of person,” Doerr, 89, told Reuters by telephone after hearing of the death. “He was not the type of person to make you think ‘I’m David Halberstam.’ He was just kind of like part of the family.”
Halberstam also wrote October 1964 (about the Yankees and the Cardinals) and served as editor and preface-writer of many other baseball-related books, as well as writing books about basketball and football. And all of that, of course, was in addition to his day job—writing searing indicments of the wars and politics of the second half of the 20th century. Not bad. Not bad at all.
He will be missed.